Parents of every child in Baltimore County schools must have felt an icy finger touch their hearts Monday morning when the news broke of a shooting at Perry Hall High School.
And they likely had the same primal question: Is my child safe?
It is beyond dismaying that such a question should arise. But it has. School shootings have happened in other parts of the country; now Baltimore County has a pin on the map.
"Obviously it's a difficult world we live in today, and I kind of hoped that Baltimore County would be immune from this type of activity," County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said in the aftermath. "But apparently we're not."
No, the nation's 26th largest school district with a student population of 107,000 can get hit by the lightning of senseless violence just like any other district.
The search for lessons on how to improve school safety should now begin. Some will want to look for troubling social media postings, motivational triggers, anti-social pursuits and the like. Such "red flags" may or may not offer lessons.
But it's time for a clear-eyed review of school system policy regarding security.
At press time, we didn't yet know everything that's behind this incident, but we do know that a student brought a gun into the school and, in the cafeteria amid about 200 others, shot and critically injured another student.
We need to know exactly how that could have happened, not necessarily with an eye toward assigning blame, but with the most fundamental of goals — making our children safer.
We're sadder now, but maybe we can become wiser.
There are no guarantees, and parents know that. But they put an enormous amount of trust in the folks who run our schools, and now they may have doubts.
Our school leaders must do all they can to restore that trust.